The cold chain, which handles everything from ultra-cold vaccine distribution, to fresh food, is critical, and each link must stay connected flawlessly to ensure the quality and safety of temperature-sensitive products. To help meet demands, shipper respondents with cold chains reported a mix of in-house, partially outsourced and fully outsourced services.

A comprehensive cold chain strategy contributes to overall success, and 89% of shippers reported having one. What's more, most shippers, 91%, and 3PLs, 100%, said they expect demand for cold chain capacity to increase over the next three years. Both shippers (70%) and 3PLs (52%) said COVID-19 has accelerated their growth plans, increasing their need for more cold chain capacity.

As a result, 70% of shippers said they expect to grow inhouse cold chain capabilities and talent over the next three years, while 50% said they plan to outsource more of their cold chain capabilities. About 90% of 3PLs said they plan to expand their cold chain capabilities and service offering.

This year's study found that there are several services 3PLs must have to meet shippers' cold chain requirements, including having a range of cross temperature/cold chain types, active temperature monitoring and product traceability with proof of compliance.